Keeping Busy

Today’s culture …

One thing about today’s culture is that it keeps me busy. Oh yes, I have many technological advances at my fingertips that enable me to do even menial tasks quickly and efficiently with the touch of a finger. I don’t even need to push buttons any more. A quick swipe of my finger across a screen gets us the latest news from my friends and family as well as quick blurbs about what is going on in the region or around the world. I can find out about pending storms, how much I have in the bank, and directions to a new restaurant. I even have a touch screen in my car. Speaking of cars, some of the newer models can parallel park and apply the brakes with little if any assistance from the driver.

Marvelous timesavers …

So, with all of these fabulous timesavers, how come I’m still so busy? Where is all of this free time that technology claims to bring? If truth be told, I think I’m busier today in semi-retirement than I was when I had 3 little kids at home. But there’s one slight difference. I don’t stress about the busyness like I used to.

Priorities …

I suppose that might be because I have gained some wisdom from my years of life experience. Unfortunately, there were a lot of candles on my cake before it finally began to register, but the fact remains: I make time for what is important to me.

We all do, even the younger set like my kids and grandkids approaching their academic finals. They may have made less than studious choices throughout the semester, but when it comes down to the last exam of the year, they will often stay up all night to ensure the information has been duly entered into their brains. Finally, it has become important to them – maybe that’s why the exams are called finals. I can’t help but chuckle at this last-ditch effort, but I certainly don’t say a word.

Too little too late …

Ok, so it may be too little too late, but even in my golden years, I sometimes do the same thing. That said, my choices generally are based on wisdom – what’s important as opposed to what I’d like to get done – an immaculate house vs. lunch with a friend, or a sewing project vs. spending time with my grandkids.

Here’s the thing. Being busy in and of itself is neither intrinsically good or evil, but the choices we make on how we occupy our time might be better spent. I still need to set priorities. You’d think at this stage of the game, I’d have this mastered, but alas, I’m still at the stage of just getting better. That said, I think that’s a good direction to go. 😊

On Writers and Rhino Skin

Write His Answer

RhinocerosGuest blogger
CCWC & GPCWC faculty member
Marti Pieper

As a little girl, I excelled in school. Even before I was old enough to earn A’s, I received E’s (for “Excellent.”)

But there was one area in which I didn’t excel. Look at my second-grade class picture, and you’ll find me on the front row: cat’s-eye glasses, red cheeks, and clasped hands.

I donned my first pair of glasses earlier that school year. But the red cheeks and clasped hands? Those appeared a few minutes before the photo shoot, when two of my classmates told me I pressed too hard when I colored.

The problem (and subsequent sobs) came not because I thought I was a great artist, but because I wanted to do everything right. Hence the tears and red cheeks. Hence the soggy tissue stuffed between those clasped hands. Hence the consistent report- card comments: “Does not receive criticism well.”…

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Do you ever talk to yourself?

Sometimes talking to yourself is excellent therapy, and in today’s blog, that is what you will find – a conversation with myself. Auditory learners benefit from this method. I decided to include it in my blog as an encouragement for others who might be struggling in the same way.

Just wondering  …

What do Halloween masks, heights and new ventures have in common? The answer is they are all scary – at least initially.

If a person donning a frightening Halloween mask jumps out at you unaware, you are initially shocked, but the terror ends because logic enters the picture. You realize the person behind the mask has no intent to harm you, and the mask itself has no intrinsic powers beyond the initial reaction.

A fear of heights (acrophobia) may begin as a God-given gift or self-protective mechanism to keep you from danger, yet when a person fails to conquer the anxiety, he can experience a sense of desperation that impacts his lifestyle. For most people, however, taking precautions like tying off a ladder or using protective equipment provides reasonable victory for them to continue to live a normal life. They address the fear by reducing it to a manageable state and do what is in their power to take precautions and make reasonable accommodations.

When it comes to new ventures, stepping into the unknown and trusting resources, both internal and external, can actually cause paralysis for people who otherwise appear quite normal – like me for example. The fear may be rooted in previous rejection, perfectionism or a host of other experiences that have reinforced an illogical perception, but bottom line, it can keep you from pursuing ideas and dreams that might truly be directed by the Lord.

As a Christian I’ve learned that in order to please God, I have to have faith – faith that He is leading and directing me, yet knowledge is only half of it. Knowledge puffs up (pride) and the Bible tells me where that pride will get me. There appears to be more. Knowing what to do is good, but I need to act on it, trusting the Lord to do what He said He would. Perfect love casts out fear, and what more perfect love is there than God’s love for His children. So if paralysis or the lack of moving forward is an issue, I need to name it – call it fear and deal with it. This may be a daily, even moment-by-moment, practice for a while, but God is faithful.

The situation is similar to the problem of the scary mask or fear of heights. In this case, however, I will trust Him and not my own resources to overcome my fear. This actually makes brilliantly logical sense. He is the Almighty. What better resource could I have?

Tonight’s the night

o-holy-nightI remember when my children were little, how easy it was to get them to bed and right to sleep on Christmas Eve. At that point, it was a good thing, because I still had a myriad of tasks to perform. Yet in retrospect, I wonder if in some way anticipating the arrival of Santa detracted from the true meaning of the night captured in song 165 years ago. This is when Adolphe Adam composed the Christmas carol we know as O Holy Night.

Though known as an English carol, the words originally came from the Minuit, chretiens – Midnight, Christians – penned by a French wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau. Tradition says that in 1847, Cappeau wrote this verse while traveling on a Parisian stagecoach. Although historians discount the location of the event, those who write understand that inspiration can come at any time you choose to depart from the daily grind and allow your thought processes to bear fruit. Cappeau, like most writers, could not quit his day job to pursue what he truly enjoyed doing. But I digress.

Later John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister, wanted to make the carol easier to sing. You will recognize his adaptation of Cappeau’s work in the more familiar hymn known today as, Cantique de Noel or O Holy Night. You might enjoy seeing how the lyrical transition took place, yet both versions capture the essence of the real meaning of Christmas, often included in our celebrations though not always the focal point.

In most cases today, our celebrations of Jesus’ birth come during Christmas Eve services rather on Christmas day. At such times, worshipers unite their hearts to recognize God’s love for a broken world – one filled with people like you and me. Jesus came that night, born as a baby to live a blameless life only to die 33 years later for the sins of all mankind. God came Himself because man could not solve resolve his brokenness on his own. How great a gift is that? It’s the perfect gift, and each of us just have to take it. Accepting His gift, we use Christmas day to model that love to family and friends.

That said, tonight’s the night so take another look at the lyrics below, and as you celebrate on this Christmas Eve, see if you don’t gain fresh insight on why Christ came. Then capture the moment of that holy night as you listen to Josh Groban sing the words of this timely tune that is as relevant today as it was on that first Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all!

O Holy Night!
The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviours birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angels voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night,
O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand;
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend;
He knows our need,
To our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace;
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name;
Christ is the Lord,
Oh, praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

Thanksgiving or Christmas?

Busy, busy, busy …

Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the official launch of the holiday season? Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday I was putting away the Christmas 2011 decorations, and now, at least at the local stores, they’re in full display for the 2012 season.

Although the merchandisers are skipping right over Thanksgiving, the rest of us – at least those of us who are cooking – are thinking about this upcoming holiday. Big time. In fact the aromas of pumpkin pies may already be wafting through the air. And our to-do list for Thanksgiving alone mimics Santa’s in length. There are only hours left to shop, chop and perform a myriad of tasks to put a meal on the table. Ironically, it takes about 30 times longer to prepare the meal than to consume it. But who are we kidding? We love it all, and at the end of the day when we put up our feet and breathe a relaxing sigh, we’re glad we did it.

Since we’re still in the pre-Thanksgiving mode and working like crazy to get so much done, I’m going to try a different approach this year. As I pare, cut, simmer and bake, rather than thinking of the task itself, I’m going to try to focus on the person(s) who will enjoy it most. Be honest. Whether it’s dark meat or light, cranberry sauce or relish, apple or pumpkin pie, everybody has their favorites. That’s why we kill ourselves to provide so many options. But if I’m making an apple pie for Paul or chilling a can of cranberry sauce for Sarah, I want to think about each of them personally. I’m thinking that this just might make the tasks less tedious and help prepare my heart for the real meaning of Thanksgiving – being thankful to God for His many blessings.

Do you have trouble sleeping?

I am always amazed at the benefits we receive from our food. For example, on a recent discussion with my daughter-in-law, she told me she read that tart cherries were good for helping you sleep. Since I experience irregular sleep patterns and insomnia, I thought I’d give it a whirl. It certainly could not hurt me.

I purchased the tart cherry juice and poured a regular-sized juice glass three quarters full. I’m guessing it was about three ounces. I slept through the night and felt refreshed the next morning. Hmmm. Could this be working or was it merely a coincidence? I planned to continue the experiment.

I tried it the next night. I awoke to a strange noise, but I returned to a deep sleep shortly after dismissing the sound as harmless. I then slept deeply until morning. This pattern continued for about a week. Then about the eighth night, I climbed into bed and realized I had not had my cherry night cap. Too tired to go back downstairs, I decided it was probably ok to skip it this once. Ironically, I was awake almost every hour and had really weird dreams. Was there a connection?

I Googled tart cherry juice and discovered there really is a connection between the cherry juice and sleep. Evidently, you can receive extra Melatonin from cherries. It is Melatonin that helps you not only get to sleep, but stay asleep and wake refreshed the next morning. It seems to work for me. What an easy remedy? And it all came from food.

Come and get it

 Have you ever seen an eagle swim? Click here to see for yourself.

A good friend sent this video to me. Perhaps it’s on an email circuit from your friends as well, but one thing stood out. Apart from the fact I had no idea an eagle could sit on the water like a duck and then swim a modified butterfly stroke, I had to marvel at his perseverance. Granted his growling stomach drove him on, but it seems that there might be more of a lesson learned beyond a picnic at the lake. 

We cannot be certain how hungry our friend was in order to determine his motivation. Was this meal the eagle’s first of the day or did it give the appearance of a quick and easy snack? Regardless, our buddy accepted the challenge, even though it took four failures before he realized success. Maybe observing the eagle will help me (and you as well) to persevere with new adventures or difficult situations. 

Saw the opportunity – Even from great heights above, his eagle eye spotted a meal in the midst of the water. 

Envisioned himself successful – He pictured himself partaking of the delicate morsels. 

Planned to succeed – Stephen Covey would say he “had the end in mind from the beginning,” and he decided to go for it. 

Tried the easiest approach first – Swooping down and picking prey out of the water  had worked before, so that was the natural approach. If it worked, great. If not, something else would. 

Assessed the situation – The first try didn’t bring lunch. Maybe he was just off his game a bit, so he tried again being conscious of the entire process.   

Tweaked his program – Making adjustments along the way, he kept trying. You have to give him credit. 

Took a less conventional approach to meet the goal – Though I’ve now learned that eagles can swim, they generally choose a more conventional mode to prepare their meals. This eagle must have also read Robert Frost as he took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. Maybe his method will also work for me.